MADISON -- People are invited to join the Madison Diocesan Choir, directed by Dr. Patrick Gorman, for its performance of “Lessons and Carols” for one night only, on Sunday, Dec. 19, at 4 p.m., at the Bishop O’Connor Center.
Bishop Robert C. Morlino will preside. The performance is free, but a collection of non-perishable food items will be taken.
Oratorios, traditional carols featured
This year’s performance features pieces from two oratorios: “Laudate Dominum” from Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, “And the Glory of the Lord” from Handel’s Messiah, along with a piece by Felix Mendelssohn, “There shall a star come out of Jacob.” Organist Glenn Schuster is prominently featured in almost every piece on organ.
Gorman equates the decision of trying to pick out his favorite pieces to “basically [trying] to pick out your favorite kid,” and adds that the choir likes all of the pieces overall. A piece that is a favorite among the choir is the traditional Austrian carol “Still, Still, Still,” but members also enjoy the challenge of the aforementioned pieces from larger works.
Gorman cites “Before the Marvel of this Night” by Schalk as having a particularly interesting text and that it “seems to have captured [the choir members’] imaginations.” In the piece, the text is written from the oft-ignored perspective of angels and shepherds who are preparing for the birth of Jesus.
From Creation through Christ’s birth
Gorman describes the Lessons and Carols concert format as the telling of the story of the creation of man through the birth of Christ — “Christ as the ‘new man’” — through the use of Scripture and music. The pieces expand and reflect upon the Scripture.
What is special about “Lessons and Carols” is that the choir has an opportunity “to share music with people in a more intimate and [in] a little more conversation[al] way.” The audience is brought closer to the mystery of the birth of Christ through the grouping of liturgy, choral performance, and audience participation.
Gorman hopes that the performance gives audience members “a chance to take a breath” and to have a “sense of renewal” through participation in and preparation for the Lord’s coming.
The real stars
In this year’s performance, the “real stars are the choir members,” says Gorman, who is the director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Madison, and has been director of the Diocesan Choir since 1992.
The choir began preparing for “Lessons and Carols” this October, which speaks to the choir’s dedication and hard work. Gorman describes his choir as “very faithful.” “The choir takes a lot of ownership,” says Gorman. “It sounds cliché, but the choir atmosphere is a lot like a family. [They’re] always concerned for one another and pray for each other…It is very unique in that way.”
A busy year for the choir
It has been a very busy year for the volunteer choir that consists of approximately 64 members, hailing from cities and towns such as Monroe, Sauk City, Stoughton, Sun Prairie, and Waterloo, to name a few.
Among the choir’s appearances this year were their preview performance of “Lessons and Carols” at Christ the King Parish in McFarland, singing for the Knights of Columbus Memorial Mass, and their performance at the annual Apostolate to the Handicapped Christmas party. In addition, the choir sang for the funerals of Msgr. Thomas F. Campion and Bishop George O. Wirz.
In June of this year, Gorman, Schuster, and about half of the choir went on a tour of churches in the Great Lakes area, as well as to sites in Canada, singing several Sunday Masses. Highlights of the trip include singing at Cleveland’s Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and in St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto, Canada.
Given in gratitude
This year’s performance is dedicated to the late Bishop Wirz, who died in November. “Our prayers go to him in gratitude for his support,” says Gorman. Gorman and the choir are also very thankful for the support of Bishop Morlino. “We have been very fortunate to have Bishop Morlino.”
In the spring, concert-goers can look forward to the choir’s performance of the complete Mozart Vesperae Solennes de Confessore. The complete work features the famous piece for soprano solo and chorus “Laudate Dominum,” which will be previewed on Sunday’s concert.